James Pozzi talks to Motorsport Industry Association CEO Chris Aylett at the Autosport International Show about the issues currently driving the sector.
Autosport International has begun but this week also saw the Low Carbon Racing Conference taking place. What were some of the key discussions?
Mostly about what a fantastic period of disruption we are in for engineering in automotive. There’s never been so many options available to the automotive industry over the next two decades. This includes areas such as hydrogen, electrics, internal combustion changes and turbo charging, to name but a few. That’s just in automotive, and this has now been mirrored in motorsport. The engineers who attended yesterday’s conference – over 200 – were looking for new business in energy efficient solutions for automotive by using motorsport to proliferate those.
How about manufacturing companies exploiting the commercial benefits of low carbon initiatives? How has that progressed in recent years?
In the last five years, there’s been an explosion led by the automotive industry around the world having signed deals with governments that they are going to be more energy efficient. They have to reduce Co2 and find solutions. Now they are realising as the clock ticks that they must find engineers to come up with those innovative solutions. Because we specialise in R&D and prototype engineering solutions, a whole chunk of them approach motorsport companies. In our industry, we’re only interested in short run production; energy efficient solutions are going to short runs in the first instance and then move into mainstream manufacturing when the consumer chooses whichever is the winning one.
A potentially inhibitive aspect of UK automotive is its relatively small domestic supply chains compared to other countries. Has the Motorsport industry faced similar concerns?
It’s true that the Automotive Council has identified a hollowing out of Britain’s Tier One and Two’s suppliers in the last two decades. In our industry it is different. The region known as Motorsport Valley is the world’s best supply chain. There are 4,500 companies specialising in just one industry. So our motorsport high performance supply chain is very well established, and doesn’t mirror the weaknesses that have been allowed to develop in the automotive industry.
With UK motor racing currently in a strong position, what do you anticipate moving forward in 2014?
The strength of the relationship between motorsport, the MIA and government is epitomised by this being the first time the secretary of state for business, Michael Fallon, has visited. With the launch of the Motorsport Business Review, 2014 will be a very powerful year ahead. The impending change in Formula One engine regulations will be interesting for engineers and manufacturers alike. There are even more radical changes centred around energy use in other motorsports. But what this means ultimately is lots of business and employment ahead, and that’s great for the country.
The Autosport International show will run until Sunday at Birmingham’s NEC.